The Department of Health (DH) has backed down over rule changes which would have prevented retired GPs from supplementing their income as approved doctors after retirement.
Dr Eric Rose, a former GPC member, said he, and others local to him, had been forced to stop working as approved Mental Health Act doctors after an administrative error by DH.
Dr Rose continued to work as an approved Mental Health Act doctors after retiring as a GP in 2008, partly to supplement his pension.
However in April new guidelines ruled out GPs who were no longer on the performers list from carrying out the work.
Dr Rose said: “The previous qualification was you’d have to have done a refresher course once during the five-year period, and have references. “But when you read the regulations, it defines who may be an approved doctor, and it doesn’t include retired GPs. So suddenly, at a stroke, I’m not allowed to do it.” Dr Rose, who worked as a GP in Buckinghamshire for 36 years, said he carried out around 2,000 Mental Health Act assessments last year – ‘more than most consultant psychiatrists’. However after writing to his local MP, he received a reply from the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said the issue would be addressed by the Mental Health Act Approvals Reference Group.
A DH spokeswoman has since confirmed that retired GPs would now be able to seek re-approval.
The spokeswoman said: “Assessing whether someone should be detained under the Mental Health Act is a very important decision – which is why we want to make sure that only doctors who are suitably qualified carry out this role.
“Since April, seven panels of experts across the country have carried out this work on behalf of the health secretary.
“We will change the guidelines shortly so that GPs who have retired but have previously been on the performers list and been approved under section 12 (2) of the Mental Health Act can seek re-approval. This will ensure that retired GPs who are still qualified to work can do so.”